Is it really a case of Mind over Muscle?



The Central Governor Theory, it does sound like a bad gangster movie, but it is actually a theory or model produced by the Professor of Exercise and Sports Science at the University of Cape Town Tim Noakes   about how your brain actually protects you during exercise.  The brain uses the symptoms of fatigue as key regulators to insure that the exercise you are slogging yourself to death with, is completed before you do yourself any harm .  To do this your brain makes you feel like you can’t go on (been there), but actually you still have reserves in the tank, yes really.  Its not a totally new theory the basis of it was created in 1891 by an Italian physiologist Angelo Mosso, Professor of Physiology at the University of Turin.

Bringing it back to the twenty first century, more recent studies done by the likes of Noakes and others, have shown besides the physical things like lack of oxygen and lactate build up, when we “feel the burn”. It is actually our brain that kicks in first before the physical aspects stop our muscles.  It is actually suggested that a key component of the Central Governor Model is that fatigue is not a physical event but rather an emotion one, that is used by the brain to regulate the exercise performance.  So in real terms in competition or sparring according to this model, the winning athlete is the one whose “illusionary symptoms” of fatigue interfere the least with the actual performance. So its actually all in the mind, however when I’m trying to control some giant, the pain in my muscles really does feel real! There is a lot of other science stuff behind this and other theories/models between the 1800s to the 21st Century, that show how things have progressed to the latest model.  If you are interested in the geeky science stuff like I am, I have put a link in at the bottom to a really good article, that is really in depth and explains all of the theories.

Applying the Central Governor Model kind of explains the training methods that Enson Inoue goes into in his interview on Open Mat Radio.  He states that in his training he would on a regular basis, push himself beyond exhaustion and beyonds his conscious limits.  He calls it “training with the will to die”.  Obviously this ability must be in his head as well as in his body, as he goes beyond what he believes his body can achieve.

So it really is a case of the brain being the central controller of all that happens in your body.  The physical things that happen to if left unregulated could cause potentially really bad things to happen.  That is why your brain stops you before you get there, which is obviously a really good thing as it keeps us safe and more importantly alive.  No one wants their muscles to train to true failure.  So when you’re training and your parter or in my case my instructor shouts out.. “keep going it doesn’t really hurt!” actually it doesn’t, it might not feel like it at the time though.  But you can actually over come this and go on if you really want to.  It is all about your psychology and strength of mind over the strength of your muscles.

The final words on this go to Tim Noakes the scientist that came up with the modern theory and he says, ” I always say that the difference between the best athletes and the less good or the winner and even the second place, you won’t find that in biology.  You’ll find that in the brain and the way the brain functions.”

Open Mat Radio Podcast Enson Inoue

Fatigue is a brain derived emotion – Article (WARNING  SCIENCEY)


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